This week at its ExtremeConnect user event in Nashville, Tenn., Extreme Networks played the tune of autonomous networks. The theme of the event was #FutureForward, indicating that the customers in the audience should be looking at many of the upcoming technology and business trends to architect their networks. This includes technologies such as internet of things (IoT), mobility, cloud and containers. All of these trends are network-centric, which is why the network has never been more important.
Network Value Rises
The rise in network value means companies need to rethink how they run their networks. Legacy operational methods are highly manual and are no longer sufficient in the dynamic, fast-paced digital world we live in. It’s time for businesses to embrace autonomous networking as a “self-operating” network as the only way that IT can keep up with the demands of the business. One of the challenges that face companies that want to transition to an autonomous network is how to get started. While there are a few solutions available today, they require a “rip and replace” approach where the entire network must be upgraded.
Extreme Announces Its Elements Approach
This is where Extreme’s approach is different. At ExtremeConnect, the company took the covers off Extreme Elements, a combination of software, hardware and services that can be mixed and matched to bring the benefits of autonomous networks to companies of all sizes and in all industries. The “Elements” that Extreme offers comprise different components of its Smart OmniEdge, Automated Campus and Agile Data Center solutions, which leverage machine learning to deliver the self-correcting and continuous learning capabilities.
The building blocks are designed to be open and standards-based and can be dropped into any other vendor’s network environment. It’s important to note that the solutions are designed to be assistive to the network operations team rather than replace them, and the human workflow is always considered as one of the elements.
Extreme Elements Are Aligned Along Six Key Principles
- Open and standards-based ecosystem so businesses can build exactly the architecture and applications they require to fulfill the specialized demands of their enterprise. This also includes a number of best-in-class third parties that work with Extreme such as Palo Alto, Fortinet, VMware, Nutanix, Splunk and many more.
- Artificial intelligence infused throughout the network. Network complexity has skyrocketed over the past several years, and AI can be used to restore order to the environment.
- Intrinsic security delivered across the entire network. Extreme uses artificial intelligence for deep visibility and detection of bad traffic to automate the quarantining and remediation process.
- Automation that delivers cross-domain and closed-loop automation so businesses can optimize network performance from the end device to the application.
- Analytics and insights that businesses can use to track user, application and IoT device usage in real time, identify anomalous behavior and automatically resolve issues without human intervention.
- Software-driven infrastructure that continuously learns and self-optimizes, adjusting resources in real time depending on the needs of the business. Extreme’s infrastructure extends from the branch to the edge to the campus core to the cloud and to the data center and offers a comprehensive portfolio of next-generation switches, routers and mobility products. Businesses can select the elements they need.
There is also a set of human elements that includes the necessary services and support to tailor the solution to the specific company.
The below exhibit shows all the Elements associated with each.
Business Can Pick and Choose the Right Elements for Their Business
Individual elements can be selected to kick-start the journey to an autonomous network. A couple of examples follow:
A retailer could start with:
- Location (Lo)
- Guest Services (Gu)
- AP500 WiFi access point (Fh)
- AirDefence (Ad)
- Mobile Applications (Mo)
- Point of Sale (Ps)
- Application Partners (Ap)
In addition, Extreme Services (Se) and Support (So) could be selected to ensure the right components are selected and deployed correctly. These Elements would enable the retailer to improve the in-store experience through personalized engagement, customer insights, secure and mobile point of sales, and virtual inventory.
Another example could be health care that would deploy:
- Extreme Control (Co)
- Compliance (Cm)
- Management (Ma)
- Analytics (An)
- AI RF (Af)
- AI Security (Ai)
- Guest access (Gu)
- AP500 (Fh)
- Wireless controller (Wi)
- VSP Series Switches (Vs)
- IoT Defender (De)
- Fabric Connect (Fc)
- Application Partners (Ap)
- Robotics (Ro)
- Services and Support (Se and So)
These Elements can be combined to improve patient care and experience by automating medication dispensers, improving clinician collaboration, securing patient access and tracking assets.
Extreme Elements Provide Flexibility and Choice
Every business in every industry will likely select a different set of Elements. What’s important is that this approach gives companies choice and flexibility as they can deploy what they need to start down the path of autonomous networking. As they get comfortable with the concept, more elements can be added. Also, because this works with existing infrastructure, Extreme’s approach offers outstanding investment protection compared with doing a wholesale forklift upgrade.
Digital organizations face an increasingly complex set of problems that range from IoT deployments to advanced security threats to an increasingly dynamic environment. Traditional technologies will not enable a path to the future. In fact, they compound the problem. Extreme’s Element approach brings the benefits of autonomous networks, but in a way where companies can start small and grow into it.
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.